One must not take Trump at his word, says Juncker

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Budapest (5/7 – 11.11)

Former European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker defended U.S. President Joe Biden after his disastrous debate performance last week and warned of his rival Donald Trump’s “incomplete mind and flawed reasoning,” in an interview with Brussels Playbook.

Juncker, who was Commission president from 2014 to 2019 during much of Trump’s presidency, said he had yet to watch last week’s debate, which triggered calls for Biden to step aside and make room for someone else to run as the Democratic presidential candidate. Still, Juncker insisted that “one can be of a certain age … and do a good job.”

But Juncker didn’t mince words when it comes to Trump: He “always thought that the European Union was his enemy,” Juncker said, adding that the Republican frontrunner “considers the European Union as an invention of Europeans against the United States of America.”

A possible second Trump term is “not going to change that much” because “one must not take Trump at his word” when he makes grandiose promises to end the war in Ukraine or undermine NATO, the Luxembourgish politician said.

Juncker hit out at Trump ally Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who this week started a far-right alliance in the European Parliament, saying he wants “maximum discomfort” for the new parliamentary group.

He added that Budapest’s six-month presidency of the Council of the EU, which kicked off this week, was unlikely to achieve much if it played disruptor.

“The influence of a presidency is large when it wants to advance things; it is not very large when it wants to block them,” he said.

Juncker also addressed the U.K.’s decision to leave the EU.

Britain is “currently discovering the consequences of its vote” to leave the bloc in 2016, “and the consequences correspond exactly to what we told them they’d be,” said Juncker, who led the Brexit talks, along with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

Juncker said the U.K.’s chances of rejoining the EU’s single market were slim, but perhaps it could do so “in a century or two.”

“When you leave a boat, you can’t get back on the same boat,” Juncker said.